Eyes Off The Wife: “The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers”

The 1946 The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers is melodrama—tragic melodrama. Lewis Milestone did efficient work in directing it, and such actors as Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas are solid. Barbara Stanwyck is a bit less interesting and persuasive than they are, but the fetching feminine presence here subsists in Lizabeth Scott.

‘Tis Stanwyck who is the lead, even so, in this tale of a rebellious girl who gets away with murder before growing up to live the high life. Unfortunately, she is married to a childhood friend (Douglas) who drinks and whom she does not love. The man she does love, another childhood friend (Heflin), shows up for some legal assistance from the sottish husband (a lawyer), but is shortly roughed up by the man’s hired goons. Douglas wants Heflin’s eyes off his wife—Stanwyck’s Martha Ivers—but all Heflin wants is to be in the driver’s seat in the present circumstances.

This is another nasty-but-nice Old Hollywood flick which is heavily dependent on both violence and a positive ending. In a screenplay by Robert Rossen, it has intelligent dialogue and no humor (it’s grave). Incidents in the film don’t exactly leave a character smiling. I’d say, though, that Ivers in toto left me smiling.

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